Certificate of Rehabilitation

Orange County Felony Defense Attorney

If you are not eligible for an expungement, the next best thing to clear your criminal record would be to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation and a governor’s pardon.

This usually applies to anyone convicted of a felony and was sentenced to state prison or someone convicted of certain sex crimes that are unable to be expunged because of state law.

Complete Prison Sentence

To qualify for a certificate of rehabilitation, you must also have completed probation (if given) and completed your prison sentence or released on parole.

California Residency Requirement

You must also be a California resident for a minimum of 5 years preceding the date of the application. However, certain convictions require additional years of California residency on top of the minimum of five years.

If you were convicted of California Penal Code 187, 209, 219, 4500, or 18755, or Military and Veterans Code section 1672(a), or any crime which carries a life sentence: You must add 4 years to the five years requirement. This means you must show proof that you have been a California resident for 9 years prior to applying for the certificate of rehabilitation.

If you were convicted of an eligible sex crime, you must add 5 years to the 5 years requirement for a total of 10-year residency requirement.

As of 2014, a certificate of rehabilitation can be requested prior to the 5 year requirement and be granted if it is found to serve the interests of justice. This does not apply to sex crimes.


A certificate of rehabilitation is not available:

  • To those only convicted of a misdemeanor (outside of certain sex crimes)
  • To those in the military
  • To those convicted of Penal Code section 286(c), 288, 288a(c), 288.5, or 289(j)
  • To those serving mandatory life parole
  • To those committed to prison under a death sentence


The benefits of a Certificate of Rehabilitation is that:

  • It serves as an official document to demonstrate an ex-felon’s rehabilitation, which could enhance employment possibilities
  • It relieves specified sex offenders of further duty to register under Penal Code 290
  • It enhances an ex-felon’s potential for becoming licensed by state boards
  • Serves as an automatic recommendation and application to the Governor for a pardon

A Certificate of Rehabilitation DOES NOT:

  • Erase the felony conviction or seal the criminal record
  • Prevent the offense from being considered as a prior conviction if the person is later convicted of a new offense
  • Allow an ex-felon to answer on employment applications that he/she has no record of a conviction
  • Give an ex-felon the right to vote. This right is automatically restored after termination from probation or discharge from parole.

In summary, a certificate of rehabilitation does not dismisses your conviction like an expungement, but it gives you a certificate to show that you served your time and you’ve gotten your act together. It enhances the possibility of getting gainful employment. It also serves as an automatic application to the Governor for a pardon. A governor’s pardon will restore additional rights to you. Read the Governor’s Pardon Section for more information.

If you were convicted of a felony, consult with an experienced Orange County Felony Defense Attorney to see what your options are to clean up your criminal record. Call the Law Offices of Nam Q. Doan | OC Legal Defense at (714) 248-DOAN (3626).